Sunday, July 22, 2012

Quality Time

I grew up living hours away from my grandparents, so spending one on one time with them was a 'special occasion kind of treat.'  I remember spending the night at my mom's parents' house and Grandma would always have Pinwheels (chocolate covered marshmallow cookies) stocked in her pantry; I also sneaked squirts of whipped cream from the can in the fridge; and if I were ever hungry before bed she'd serve me a rice cake spread with peanut butter on top.  Grandpa makes the best omelets for breakfast and there's always sausage and peppers and homemade tomato sauce (or something of the like) simmering on the stove and ready to serve.  Their house has a distinct, welcoming, comfortable, 'come sit and eat and talk' kind of smell and every now and then I'll catch my parents' house smelling the same way.  It's about feeling at home.  I also remember reading next to Grandma in her huge bed before Grandpa came up for the night and I loved her fluffy comforter and thick pillows.  She let me play with her beads and scarves and I'd tie them together and dangle my Barbies and Little Ponies from the landing.  I also remember playing in the 'cubby hole' (storage area) and exploring nick knacks my grandpa had brought home on his many overseas adventures when he was in the Air Force.  The hula girl from Vietnam and his old flight jacket ring a bell.  The shag green carpet stands out in my mind too.  When I visited Grandma and Grandpa we filled our time by going to the hair salon (I still remember the lady's name that did Grandma's fluffy hair do), bowling (Grandma tried to teach me how to keep score before computers did all the work), roller skating, and swimming (Grandma would never get her hair wet).  Grandpa would always tell me to put socks on my feet and to "knock off that racket up there" as I did cartwheels in the living room.  He would spend hours in the yard, making their large corner lot and shaded backyard quite the sight (just like his dad did in the garden) and every year at Christmas he covered the huge tree in the middle of the yard with the big bulbed colored lights.  The tree is no longer there and finding those kind of lights these days is next to impossible.  A regular at the country club, he'd treat us to lunch, always give the waitress a hard time, and take us to see fireworks over the golf course on the 4th.  He used to smoke a pipe, and while I'm glad he kicked the habit ages ago, I'll admit that I loved the smell.  He also enjoys serving drinks on the his deck or from his downstairs bar and if I wasn't upstairs reading with Grandma, I learned to like the whatever Grandpa was watching on tv (because you don't take the remote from Grandpa).  My grandma taught me how to tie a bow on my pink bear (that now resides in my boys' play room) and she helped me make a dinosaur diorama in first grade.  She also shared her mom's pecan pie recipe - a menu staple during the holidays.  And did I mention the time when she and her mom rode with my brother, mother, and me to Florida?  Four generations on a road trip...brave souls.  While we lived a couple hours away from each other, our time together obviously left its mark on my memories.  And sometime this summer I'll be taking my own children back to the same pool Grandma used to take me so they can swim with her.  They'll also visit the park, lake, train tracks, and merry go round where we used to walk their dog.  Who knows what the boys will remember at just 2 1/2, but better to start somewhere than not at all.  Love it.  

At some point in my childhood my dad's dad lived with us for a few months every year, so our dynamic changed and I'm forever grateful for the day to day interactions we shared.  Before those years my brother and I would go to Arkansas in the summer for a few days to spend time with my dad's parents.  Grandpa hung a swing from a tree in the backyard and we'd hang on tight, leaning all the way back, and go as high as we could to feel like we were flying.  My brother ran around without his shirt on so I did too.  Grandma made us green Jell-o popsicles and we listened to old records in the dining room.  I vaguely remember songs about a cherry tree, alphabet soup, and a hippo in the tub.  They took us to Dogpatch once and I brought home a glass butterfly that I broke just a few hours later.  My grandma told me not to leave it on the floor.  She was right.  When I was nine (ten?) we had a family reunion at a lake; my brother got a Nintendo for his birthday while we were there (he went nuts); and my crazy aunts sang to the Chenille Sisters on the back deck.  A devout Catholic (a stark contrast to her husband and only son, who both say their church is the golf course), Grandma will pray for you until the day she dies and sprinkle the wheels of your car with holy water for safe travels.  We used to chase their dog, Moxie, in the backyard and my brother even sampled a bite of her dog food once.  Grandpa used to own a farm and later in life trained Border Collies.  A wanderer, a free spirit, he traveled out west for weeks at a time and made a home away from home in Brazil for a few months each year.  All this after he retired from the Air Force.  It was in between these trips that he stayed with us and in the last couple years of his life, moved in full time.  He ran car pools, watched countless baseball games while my dad and brother were on the field, took us out to lunch, had his own circle of friends calling the house, cleaned up spilled milk without getting mad, found the beer my brother hid in his mini fridge and kept it a secret, and let me drive his white pick up truck.  The boys have met their great grandma once and I'm certain their great grandpa is getting a kick out of watching them from above.  I swear he's sending angel messages to my dad about all the secret, naughty tricks to teach them.

So we are fortunate to live in the same town as both sets of mine and Joe's parents and it's a pretty sweet deal that they love spending time with the boys.  Hello, babysitters!  It's easy to walk out the door knowing everyone is in good care and I also think the their time together is invaluable.  I want my boys to have memories with their grandparents, and at their current rate and good fortune of having them close by, I'm certain they will.  Last Sunday my mom called and suggested I bring the boys over.  For the day.  All day.  And leave them.  I'm not sure how she could read our minds, but Joe and I were both dragging and felt clueless as to how we were going to fill the day.  Within the hour, I loaded us up, dropped them off, and we were on our way to spend time together for an entire day sans kids.  Win, win.  Never mind that Joe and I browsed the latest exhibit at the Science Museum, ate a leisurely lunch, and spent over an hour at the book store.  What's important is that the boys and their grandparents played with trains, watched golf, whined a tiny bit, ate marshmallows, watched Thomas the Train and baseball, took a nap, scared the thunder away, ate lunch, petted Katie, pitched quarters, and had a banana.  It made Monday's whines completely tolerable, mine and Joe's time together sweeter, and grandchild/grandparent time priceless.  Nana's bed and breakfast (the playroom) is getting good use and my dad is busy scheming up their next adventure, including a hike in the woods to explore the creek......

Let the games begin.  And enjoy.  And thank you.  Because quality time with grandparents is priceless.
Thank you, Dad, for the pictures.  Thank you, Aunt Carol, for consolidating them into a collage.
First time sharing a bed since they were 4 months old.  Melt my heart.

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